Chief executive officer, ACT*1 Personnel Services
Born: September 1, 1952, in Tarboro, North Carolina.
Education: North Carolina A&T State University, English degree; University of Maryland, master's degree; North Carolina State University, PhD.
Family: Married Bernard Howroyd (CEO of AppleOne Employment Services); children: two.
Career: Billboard , 1976–1978, personal assistant to the director; ACT*1 Personnel Services, 1978–, CEO; Document Scanning Systems, CEO, 1996–; A-Check America, CEO, 1998–.
Awards: Entrepreneur of the Year, AT&T, 1994; 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, Star Group, 1999 and 2000.
Address: ACT*1 Personnel Services, 1999 West 190th Street, Torrance, California 90504; http://www.act-1.com.
■ A determined professional, Janice Bryant Howroyd expanded her small, one-phone-line office into a multimillion dollar business over a period of more than 30 years. She began ACT*1 Personnel Services, a now leading employmentservices agency, with $1,500 and perseverance. Howroyd was one of a handful of African American women entrepreneurs in the employment-service industry.
Janice Bryant Howroyd was born around 1953 in Tarboro, North Carolina, as one of 11 children in her family. She learned to remain determined in spite of all obstacles during high school; her parents sent her to the town's all-white school, where in one class the teacher taught that people of African descent were only good for slave labor and that affirmative action was wrong for the country. Howroyd was upset and begged her father to allow her to switch schools. He left the decision to her; she eventually chose to return. She would perform well enough to win a full scholarship to North Carolina A&T State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English. She later earned a doctorate in humanities from North Carolina A&T State University.
After finishing her schooling, Howroyd visited her sister in Los Angeles and soon decided to stay there. She went to work as her brother-in-law's assistant at Billboard and noticed that most of the magazine's employees worked there in order to either break into the entertainment business or make money while waiting for their big breaks.
Howroyd also noticed that she had an affinity for organization and employee placement. She stated in Black Enterprise , "I realized that I enjoyed helping people get temporary and permanent jobs. When someone told me to hang out my own shingle, I took the chance" (August 2003). She saved money and later borrowed from her family in order to start her own employment-service agency. Howroyd rented a small office in Beverly Hills, and with one phone the life of her company ACT*1 Personnel Services began. One of her first clients was her former employer, Billboard .
Howroyd built her business on two principles: the "WOMB" method and the notion of "keeping the humanity in Human Resources." The letters in "WOMB" stood for "Word of Mouth, Brother!" Howroyd guaranteed companies that she would find qualified employees or return any payment received. Indeed, ACT*1's reputation slowly spread by word of mouth, and within a few years the company had earned $10 million. Howroyd placed workers at companies with which she could build long-term relationships; she always sent only those who were qualified and would be committed to the positions in question. She told the San Diego Business Journal , "Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally. That means you only do business with a company you'd send a relative to, and you look to work with companies you can get repeat business from. That's how I measure success" (January 29, 2001). ACT*1's motto of "pride in performance" helped employees and temporary workers feel valued.
While others businesses grew merely by opening branches in other areas, Howroyd and her executive team, which by this time included several family members, decided to expand ACT*1 through the creation of new technology. Under Umbrella Managed Programs, ACT*1 created an electronic time card that Silicon Graphics, a computer maker, would use to track all of its temporary employees. Madelina Williams, a manager at Silicon Graphics, stated to Cassaundra Hayes of Black Enterprise , "At the end of the week, our managers can push a button and see the status of any temp employee. ACT*1 did in six weeks what their predecessors couldn't. They are truly a business partner" (August 1998).
ACT*1 branched into other areas, including engineering, technical and general office work, and entertainment. Howroyd also started two schools of continuing education—California National University for Advanced Studies and the Academy of Computer Technology—to help her workers gain new skills. She also started Agile-1, a management-solutions company; A-Check America, a background and drug-screening company; Enterpise Communications, a business-communication solutions company; Document Scanning Systems, a document-management solutions provider; and CTA Travel, a corporate travel agency. Through new technology and the various ACT*1 affiliates, Howroyd hoped to step beyond relationships with customers and create lasting partnerships with the companies that made use of her various services.
Howroyd continued to "keep the humanity in Human Resources" and develop relationships with a number of companies, moving her business from Beverly Hills to Torrance, California. She opened more than 70 office branches across the country and served companies such as Ford Motor Company, Cingular Wireless, and the Gap. In 2003 ACT*1 reported earnings of $487 million. That year the company ranked third on Black Enterprise magazine's Top 100 Industrial/Service Companies list.
Howroyd, who owned 51 percent of her company (her children, Katharyn and Brett, owned the other 49 percent), was also active in her community. She served on the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Initiative Board, Loyola Marymount University's board of regents, and the Women's Leadership Board of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was married to Bernard Howroyd, the head of AppleOne Employment Services.
Forst, Eric, "Minority-Woman-Owned Company Succeeds with New Technology," San Diego Business Journal , January 29, 2001.
Hayes, Cassaundra, "Business Dynamos," Black Enterprise , August 1998, pp. 58–64.
Holmes, Tamara E., "She's the Boss: The Women of the B.E. 100s Are Setting a New Standard of Excellence—and Changing the Face of Business," Black Enterprise , August 2003, pp. 93–95.
"Howroyd, Janice Bryant," Contemporary Black Biography , vol. 42, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale Group, 2004.
"Sisters in Charge: Innovative Women Entrepreneurs," Ebony , March 2002, pp. 136–142.
—Ashyia N. Henderson